How Little We Need

The other week, my mother went to Sri Lanka.

Her bag did not, though. Her bag with multiple pairs of this and extras of that, plenty of just-in-case things. It seemed to have vanished into the bowels of an airplane or an airport or thin air.

Twenty-four hours into her time in Sri Lanka, my mother emailed me. It’s unsettling to be here without my stuff, she wrote. Different food, different language, different weather, but no security of familiar stuff. This is a stretching experience.

But that day, she took to the streets of Colombo with little more than the clothes on her back. She could still breathe, listen, put one foot in front of the other.

Then, the next day, another email. A miracle! she wrote. They found my luggage. But that’s not the miracle. The miracle is that I hardly need it. I realize that I have way overpacked.

Days later, she would meet an activist who lived simply so he was free to move toward what mattered at a moment’s notice. And that was the miracle, my mother said: freedom. She was fully present to Sri Lanka, undistracted by her stuff.

And sometimes when we are stretched to live without our usual comforts, we can see how little we need them. Or how little we need.

Which is something of a miracle: to know how little we need to breathe, listen, put one foot in front of the other.

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